Read our tips to learn how to talk to your kids about online predators and learn how to keep your kids safe from digital strangers.

Online predators aren’t something we want to talk to our kids about. 

We want to believe that our kids wouldn’t be lured by one; that if they were approached, they would tell us and we would protect them.

According to a recent statistic, one in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the web. Only 25% of those told a parent.

Given this startling reality, we need to educate our children about online safety and provide them with the necessary tools and strategies to successfully manage any communications they may receive.

Here are some important tips to consider as you prepare your child for the world of the internet:

1. Start the Conversation

Don’t hesitate to talk with your child about stranger danger, online predators and overall etiquette for social media and websites. In an age appropriate manner, explain to them what online predators are, what their motives are and reinforce they are not to be trusted.

2. Educate About Grooming Tactics

Make sure your child understands the red flags of "grooming" - a technique used by predators to build relationships with victims. Talk through examples about what language might be used in an online chat. Some of these things may include:

  • “Let’s chat privately”
  • “I’d love to meet you. Where do you live?”
  • “Where do you hang out?"
  • “What do you like to do with your friends?”

These are all tactics to gain a child's trust to begin building a trusted relationship.

3. Minimize Shame 

Above all else, it's important that your child trusts you and feels comfortable turning to you if they feel unsafe about an online interaction. Be sure to reinforce an "open door" policy, so they know that you're there to help them navigate their online world.

4. Monitor Online Activity

Keep the family computer in a neutral space in the house where everyone's online behavior is out in the open. Set screen time limits on the amount of time your child spends online or in apps and create guidelines for participating in chat rooms or using messaging apps.

The psychological effects of online exploitation can be extremely detrimental to our children. It can cause increased anxiety, depressed mood, isolation, school truancy and more. The good news is with proper guidelines in place, education and strong connection and emotional support, we can combat this risk and keep our children safe.

Learn more about dangerous messaging apps your child should avoid by reading GroupMe and Other Dangerous Apps Parents Should Know.

About Annemarie Lange

Annemarie Lange is a licensed professional counselor in the Philadelphia area that utilizes mindfulness and meditation to help her clients deal with a variety of challenges.

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